Troye Sivan has channelled his quarantine blues into six lush electro-pop bops on his latest EP In A Dream. It tackles heartbreak, questions of self-worth and the chaos of 2020 in under 20 minutes.
Although the majority of the record was written pre-pandemic, it’s easy to interpret the songs through COVID-coloured glasses. Sivan had recorded five of the six tracks with producer Oscar Görres between Stockholm and LA when the madness started and he returned home to Australia for lockdown. In A Dream also feels a little like a full-circle moment for the singer-songwriter. After kick-starting his career on YouTube in his teens, the now 25-year-old is releasing music from his family home once again.
In A Dream opens with ‘Take Yourself Home’, a track that references depression and a longing to return to a safe place. “I’m tired of the city. Scream if you’re with me. If I’m gonna die, let’s die somewhere pretty,” Sivan sings. Sonically, it sets the scene for the multidimensional sounds that you can expect from the rest of the EP. While the song opens with delicate acoustic guitar, it eventually builds and closes with 40 seconds of thumping dance beats. He also plays with both heavy production and stripped back vocals on the chorus and verses respectively, a dualistic technique that shapes much of the EP.
On ‘Easy’, Sivan pulls on the heartstrings as he begs a lover not to leave. “He made it easy, please, don’t leave me,” his warped vocals repeat over the bridge. The lyrics are polished with slick autotune and layered over ’80s synth, making it the ideal track for crying on the dance-floor (or at least in your bedroom, for the time being).
The interlude track ‘could cry just thinkin about you’ is a hazy wave of echoing vocals that continues this storyline of lost love. It’s a harrowing and fleeting moment at only 53 seconds in length, which made me wish it had a little more time to shine on the tracklist. ‘STUD’ eases in with gentle piano before death dropping into an infectious chorus and moody dance break. On the surface, it appears to be a hot ‘n’ heavy track about a one night stand: “You got all the muscles and the features I want,” he flirts in the first few lines. But when you dig deeper, Sivan is analysing his insecurities as he seeks validation from men who fit society’s standards of beauty: “Taking the fun out of fucks, searching for something I’m not.”
‘Rager Teenager!’ is a nostalgic song that yearns for the freedom of simpler times during adolescence. Whether intentional or not, it also feels like it’s longing for an era pre-COVID and social distancing: “I just wanna sing loud. I just wanna lose myself in a crowd.” It’s also about the power that comes with breaking out of a routine and regressing to the reckless abandon that so many of us take for granted in our youth. In another odd pairing that somehow works, the track couples fuzzy vocals and otherworldly synth with off-kilter industrial percussion.
The EP closes with the title track ‘IN A DREAM’, which is another bubbling breakup song about Sivan’s struggle to move on while his ex continues to appear in his dreams. The earnest lyrics are propelled by toe-tapping percussion and a danceable chorus, ending the EP with another slice of sad pop perfection.
While Sivan’s 2018 record Bloom is a tough act to follow, the In A Dream EP is a satisfying appetiser that showcases where Sivan stands right now. It’s melancholic, cathartic and yet hopeful. As he leans into his talent for storytelling-turned-songwriting, In A Dream is potentially the artist at his most vulnerable and introspective.